An excerpt from

Locksmiths, educate the public! When you are on the job, the best form of advertising is word of mouth and referrals. Ask your customers to save your contact information in their cell phones.

Stop Fake Scammer Locksmiths

Rogue locksmiths overcharging customers
SEATTLE — Rogue locksmiths are grossly overcharging customers who lock themselves out of their homes and cars, forcing them to pay double, triple and sometimes even four times what the service is worth.

Some people call the practice a “bait and switch,” while others just call it a scam.

The problem is that very few people think about locksmiths until they’re already locked out, in which case they’re desperate to get back in their home or car and are at the mercy of whoever is available. And not every company is professional.

“He had no business cards, no professional car, no uniform,” said Ellen Ginn, who recently needed a locksmith for her car.

Across the state and across the country, rogue locksmiths — often unlicensed and untrained — are running a lockout “gotcha.”

Mike Gowrylow thought he was getting a great deal when he called a locksmith to help get into his car. The company said the service charge would be just $19, plus time on the job.

But to get his car unlocked, Mike had to unlock his wallet.

Gowrylow said it took the locksmith about three minutes to get into his car. And how much was the final bill?

“The total bill was $109,” he said.

Ginn got a quote of $39.95 when she locked her keys in the ignition.

Once the locksmith showed up, Ginn said the price changed.

“Oh, the fee isn’t $39.95, it’s $175” she said.

If you’re calling retail, a reputable locksmith will charge anywhere between $50 and $75.

The certified technicians at AAA know the horror stories. They demonstrated how vehicles can be unlocked relatively quickly — in a matter of minutes, if not seconds. Those experts say the service shouldn’t cost hundreds of dollars.

But that’s exactly what happens, because the shady locksmiths depend on your desperation. They hook you in with a low-ball quote and they they hold your keys hostage until you pay the inflated price in cash.

And it’s not just car owners who are being targeted.

Laurie Todd hired a locksmith to re-key five locks at her new home.

“So it was going to be like a $140 plus tax,” Todd said

Then, once the job was done, the man handed her a bill for $280.

Rogue locksmiths use generic names and copycat phrases so customers can’t tell who’s reputable and who is not. And it turns out some of the companies claim they’re local but are actually based in New York, Colorado, and Arizona.

The Better Business Bureau recently launched an investigation into shady locksmith operations, but officials say those companies are almost impossible to pin down.

“Numbers can change at any time, locations can change at any time and company names can change at any time,” said Niki Horace of the BBB.

What’s even worse is that the practice is completely legal, because anyone can take out an ad and claim to be a locksmith. And once a customer agrees to even an inflated price, they’re expected to pay.

But as Ginn discovered, a forceful protest will sometimes get the locksmith to back off. After being told she would have to play $175 to get back into her car, Ginn made a fuss and eventually got that price down to $65.

To avoid getting burned, car and homeowners should do their homework before they need a locksmith. Insurance companies will give referrals for reputable companies. After finding a trustworthy locksmith, customers should remember the company’s name and keep track of the phone number.